Mutton Biryani

Mutton Biryani

My husband loved mutton, especially the tender meat from a goat, and I came up with this recipe so that I could make it at a moment’s notice. The secret was that I would marinate the mutton and then keep it overnight in the refrigerator or even freeze it. This meant I could make biryani on call.


Mutton 1/2 kg, cut into cubes and in the bone

Basmati rice 3 cups, washed and soaked for 30 minutes

Tomatoes 2 large, chopped

Green chillies 2, chopped

Onions 2 large + 1, thinly sliced

Ginger 1”

Garlic 4 cloves

Mint leaves, a few

Cloves 2

Bay leaf 1

Cinnamon 1” piece

Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp

Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp

Coconut oil 2 tbsps

Coriander leaves for garnish

Raisins 3 tbsps

Ghee 1 tbsp

For the marinade:

Yoghurt 1 cup

Turmeric powder 1 tsp

Coriander powder 2 tsps

Chilli powder 1 tsp

Pepper powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste


Marinate the washed mutton in all the ingredients and leave it overnight in the refrigerator.

Heat the pressure cooker and add the oil. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds.

When they stop sputtering, add the two large sliced onions. Sauté till they turn transparent.

Crush the ginger and garlic and add to the cooker. Sauté for two minutes till the raw smell disappears.

Add the marinated mutton pieces. Add the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, tomatoes and green chillies. Mix well. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of water and cook in the pressure cooker for two whistles on high flame. Reduce the heat and cook for five minutes. Switch off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down.

Once the cooker is cool and the steam has escaped, open it and stir through once.

Drain the rice and add to the pressure cooker. Close the lid and cook for one whistle. Reduce the heat and cook for one whistle. Let the pressure cooker cool down.

Heat the ghee in a small frying pan and fry the small onion, sliced, till they are brown and crisp. Take care not to burn the slices. Take it out and fry the raisins in the same ghee for a few seconds. Take them out with a slotted spoon.

Open the pressure cooker and stir the remaining ghee in the frying pan through the fluffed up biryani.

Serve on a rice platter, garnished with the coriander leaves, fried onions and raisins. It goes well with a green salad, raita and pappadams.

Ethapazham Pachadi (Kerala Plantain Curry)

Ethapazham Pachadi (Kerala Plantain Curry)

If there is one variety of banana that I absolutely love, it is the Ethapazham or Nendrapazham, or plantain. It is great as a fruit, in curries and in desserts. This particular curry, Ethapazham Pachadi, is easy to make and is a fine balance of sweet and spicy.


Ethapazham or plantain 2, peeled and chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Grated coconut 3 tbsps

Green chillies 2

Cumin seeds 1 tsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Red chilli whole 1

Coconut oil 1 tbsp

Yoghurt 2 tbsps


Boil the chopped plantains with red chilli powder, turmeric and salt in 1 cup of water.

Grind the grated coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds.

Mash the cooked banana.

Add the ground coconut mix.

Add the curry leaves and bring to a boil. If it is too thick, add some water.

Take it off the heat and add the whipped yoghurt.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds and whole red chilli.

Garnish the curry and serve hot with rice.

Yam Curry

Yam Curry

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius or elephant foot yam, known as chena in Malayalam and jimikand in Hindi, makes a really tasty curry when cooked with coconut and tamarind. I love the texture of yam and eat this curry with freshly steamed idlis or crispy dosas.


(Serves 4)

Yam 300 g, sliced long

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Fresh coconut 1 cup, grated

Green chillies 2

Onion 1 medium, roughly chopped

Tamarind pulp 1 tbsp or soak about half a lemon-sized lump in water for 15 minutes and extract the pulp

Curry leaves

Coconut oil 1 tsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp


Add the yam pieces with the dry spices and salt to a pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover the yam and cook for 10 minutes — 3 whistles on high heat and low heat for about 8 minutes.

Grind the coconut, chopped onion and green chillies in a blender. Add to the cooked yam.

Add the tamarind pulp and curry leaves and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste. Switch off the heat.

Heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. When it stops sputtering, add to the curry.

Serve hot with rice, idlis or dosas.

Fried Chinese Potatoes (Koorka)

Fried Chinese Potatoes (Koorka)

The tuber known as koorka or Chinese potato in Kerala — botanical name Coleus rotundifolius — is a perennial herb native to Africa. I remember my mother making it occasionally and revelling in the delicious taste and firm texture of the dish. The Chinese potato is neither from China nor is it a potato. It belongs to the mint family.

I rarely cook it as it is difficult to clean and peel and leaves ugly black stains on the fingers. In Kerala, however, now you can get it delivered cleaned, peeled and sliced. So I cooked it and enjoyed both the cooking and the eating.


Koorka or Chinese potato 200 g, sliced

Garlic cloves 3, crushed

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Curry leaves, a few sprigs

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Chilli flakes 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Coconut oil 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp


Steam the koorka with salt and turmeric powder in 1/2 cup water in a pressure cooker for two whistles. Let the cooker cool naturally and open it. Continue to cook till the water evaporates.

Heat the coconut oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds.

When they stop sputtering, add the onions.

Add the garlic and curry leaves.

Add the cooked koorka and the chilli flakes.

Cook on low heat till the koorka is slightly crisp on the outside.

Serve with chapatis or rice.

Jackfruit Biryani

Jackfruit Biryani

It is jackfruit season in Kerala and the tree in my cousin’s backyard is laden with fruit. She gave me raw jackfruit and my original plan was to cook it the traditional way with coconut. But the smell of fresh raw jackfruit as it boiled was so tempting that I decided to try to make biryani with it. This is a recipe that I developed on the fly and the end result turned out delicious.


Raw jackfruit 300 g, cut into cubes

Turmeric 1 tsp

Salt 1tsp

Basmati rice 2 cups, soaked for 15 minutes and drained

Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Garlic cloves 5

Ginger 1” piece

Green chilli 1, chopped

Tomato 1 large, chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Oil 2 tbsps

Water as needed


Boil the raw jackfruit in two cups of water with salt and turmeric till all the liquid evaporates. By now the jackfruit should be tender but still succulent.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. You can use any vegetable oil.

Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds stop sputtering, add the onions. Sauté the onions till they turn golden brown.

Crush the garlic and ginger in a stone pestle and mortar. Add this to the onions. Sauté for a few minutes till the raw smell of garlic disappears. This should take only about 2-3 minutes. Add the curry leaves.

Add the cooked jackfruit to the pan and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and green chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the drained rice and mix well. Add the spices and add about 3 cups of water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the biryani and cook till the water evaporates. By now the rice will be cooked.

Switch off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad or mango salsa.

Kerala Lemon Pickle

Kerala Lemon Pickle

It is lemon season and this year has been a bumper crop. A great way to preserve lemons for the rest of the year is to pickle them. This is a spicy pickle that goes well with rice and yoghurt.


Lemons 8

Salt 1 tbsp

Til oil or sesame oil 1/2 cup

Turmeric powder 1 tsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Fenugreek seeds 1 tsp

Ginger 1” piece, finely chopped

Garlic 5 cloves, finely chopped

Green chillies 2, finely chopped

Curry leaves 5-6 sprigs

Red chilli powder 1 tbsp

Asafoetida powder 1/2 tsp

White vinegar 1 tbsp


Wash and dry the lemons.

Take 2 tablespoons of til oil in a wok and fry the lemons in it. Use til oil from the Indian grocery shops. You can’t use sesame oil that you use for salads or for Asian cooking.

Fry the lemons for 2 minutes, stirring all the while. See that the lemons don’t break.

Cool the lemons and chop each lemon into four pieces.

Add salt and turmeric and toss it well.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and heat it on medium flame. If the wok becomes too hot, remove from the flame and once it cools a bit, return it to the stove.

Add the mustard seeds. When they stop sputtering, add the fenugreek seeds.

Add the chopped garlic, ginger and green chillies. Separate the curry leaves and add to the wok.

Add the red chilli powder and asafoetida powder. Sauté for a few seconds.

Add the lemons and toss well. Add the vinegar and switch off the heat.

When the pickle has cooled down completely, transfer to sterilised bottles.

Add the rest of the til oil and close tight.

Let it rest for two days. Once you open the bottle, refrigerate it.

Book review: 101 Kerala Delicacies

Book review: 101 Kerala Delicacies

G. Padma Vijay; Rupa & Co., India; 1998

This has been my go-to book for decades. I reviewed it for the Times of India and that is how it came into my life. I think I have tried every dish in it and over the years, through experimentation, have honed each one of them to suit my palate.

That is the beauty of this book. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. They form the basic building blocks from which you can craft a country cottage or a castle according to your taste.

The book is divided into 12 chapters, including Pickles & Chutneys, Vegetarian Dishes, Prawn Dishes, Fish Dishes, Egg & Chicken Dishes, Mutton Dishes, Pork Dishes, Snacks, and Desserts & Sweets. Some of my favourite recipes include Chemmeen Achar (Prawn Pickle), Muringakai Theeyal made of the superfood moringa, Koorka Curry made of Chinese potaoes, Kozhierchi Varthada (Chicken Roast) and the Muslim dish Pathri (Rice Roti).

The book does not claim to encompass the entire cuisine of Kerala, but it has some of the main dishes from every part of the meal.

One disadvantage, however, is that the translation of the names of the dishes from Malayalam to English might still leave many readers scratching their heads. For example, in the recipe given above, Vazhakka and Payar have been translated, but though raw banana is clear, how many will know what chauli is? It would have been infinitely easier to describe it as black eyed peas. Also chauli refers to the fresh vegetable in some parts of India.

Similarly, koorka is familiar to those who speak Malayalam, but not to many others. Translating it as koorka in English is not really helpful. The vegetable that is from Africa and grows very well in Kerala is known as Chinese potato or Plectranthus rotundifolius, to give it its botanical name. There is a glossary at the beginning of the book, but it would have been more useful to have the English translations next to the Malayalam names.

One of my favourite recipes in the book is for Kozhierchi Porichadu (Fried Chicken). The well-thumbed page attests to how often I have used it. After all, this book belongs to a phase in my life when Facebook was not even a twinkle in the eye and even the World Wide Web was in its nascent stages.

Kerala Mutton fry

Kerala Mutton fry

Kerala cuisine is known for its meat and seafood and this is a family favourite. I have adapted it from the popular Beef Fry.

The recipe has flavours more familiar to Trivandrum and its environs as I developed it along with my husband, who belonged to the city. This goes well with Kerala Porotta — I have spelt it as it is pronounced in Kerala — and a basic green salad of onions and green chillies. The drink I would suggest is Kerala buttermilk. Of course, a typical local would suggest beer.


(To serve two persons)

Mutton 500 g, cubed
Onions 2 or 20 shallots, thinly sliced
Green chillies 2, cut on a slant
Ginger 1 inch piece
Garlic 3 cloves
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Red chilli powder 1 tbsp
Coriander powder 2 tbsp
Pepper powder 1 tbsp
Meat masala 1 tsp
Garam masala 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves a few sprigs
Coconut slices 1/2 cup
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Coconut oil 2 tbsp
Salt to taste


Cook the cleaned mutton cubes with salt, pepper powder and meat masala with about 1/2 cup water in the pressure cooker. Switch off the gas after two whistles and let it rest.

Heat the oil in a shallow thick-bottomed pan and add the mustard seeds. When it stops sputtering, add a few of the curry leaves, onions and green chillies. Fry till the onions become translucent. Crush the ginger and garlic in a pestle and add to the pan. Saute till the raw smell of the ginger-garlic paste recedes.

Reduce the flame and add the chilli powder and coriander powder and fry for a few seconds. Add the steamed mutton. Add turmeric and garam masala. Cook the mutton till the water dries up, stirring it frequently to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Heat some oil in a small frying pan and fry the coconut slices and the rest of the curry leaves. Add to the thickened mutton curry and continue to fry till all the water evaporates. By now each mutton piece should be well coated with the masala.

Serve hot with porotta, rice or soft bread.